This page is intended for Arts Administrators and Arts Organizations who are interested in making their services and programs accessible. Whether you are beginning or expanding your accessibility research, the resources listed below may provide guidance.
South Arts believes the arts are vital to the community and should be accessible to all people. We are committed to ensuring Americans with Disabilities compliance as well as providing accommodations for all audiences in our programs and services, employment, accessibility technology, alternative methods of communication, and physical accommodations. It is our hope to reach all audiences by making our resources accessible to all regardless of technology and ability. Organizations that receive funding from South Arts are required to provide accessibility for their constituents.
South Arts supports organizations throughout the region who are committed to doing this work. We recognize that the field is constantly evolving and welcome your recommendations to enhance the accessibility of our websites. Please e-mail email@example.com with your suggestions.
The Americans with Disabilities Act: The United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division list of current ADA regulations.
NEA – Laws and Compliance Standards: The National Endowment for the Arts list of laws and compliance standards.
NEA – Design for Accessibility: A Cultural Administrator’s Handbook: This resource was created by The National Endowment for the Arts to help organizations not only comply with Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, but to assist in making access an integral part of planning, mission, programs, outreach, meetings, budget and staffing.
NEA – Section 504 Self Evaluation Workbook: This Program Evaluation Workbook is designed to assist staff of Endowment grant recipients in evaluating the current state of accessibility of their programs and activities to visitors and employees who are disabled.
United States Access Board: A full guide to ADA standards by the United States Access Board.
The ADA National Network: The ADA National Network provides information, guidance, and training on the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Southeast ADA Center: The Southeast ADA Center (formerly known as Southeast DBTAC) provides general information, training, and guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and disability access tailored to the needs of business, government, and individuals at local, state, and regional levels. This organization is not arts focused but is your primary resource for all things ADA.
The following are recommendations to remember and implement when engaging with a person with a disability.
When speaking or writing about people with disabilities, use “people first” language. Remember, positive language empowers. It is important to put the person first — to focus on the person, not the disability. Always use words that reflect individuality, equality or dignity, e.g. the person who is blind, the child who is deaf, the individual with a disability.
Disability Sensitivity Training Video: A D.C. Government training video with tips on interacting with people with disabilities.
Effective Interaction: Communicating With and About People with Disabilities in the Workplace: The U.S Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment directory of disability employment policies.
Ensuring Virtual Events Are Accessible for All - RespectAbility: Free guides, webinars, and resources for making virtual events accessible for all.
Downloadable Disability Access Symbols: The Graphic Artists Guild's free collection of disability access symbols.
ADA Great Lakes: Tip Sheet on Accessible Ticketing: Tips for developing accessible ticketing for people with disabilities.
Accessible Festivals: An organization working to increase the standards of accessibility in the live entertainment and recreational events field.
Festival Insights: Tips on how to make your festival more accessible.
ALL-INCLUSIVE ARTS: How theatre companies and venues are making the arts more accessible: An Encore article discussing ways in which theatre companies and venues are making strives towards making the arts more accessible.
NEA – Disability Design, Summary Report: To better understand current trends in the disability design field, the National Endowment for the Arts commissioned a field scan, which included a review of recent research and news articles as well as interviews with key subject matter experts.
Institute for Human Centered Design: The Institute for Human Centered Design is committed to advancing the role of design in expanding opportunity and enhancing experiences for people with disabilities. They have expertise in legally required accessibility and promote best practices for universal design.
Accessible Exhibition Design: How to create an accessible exhibition, from the Smithsonian Accessibility Program.
National Arts and Disability Center: The mission of the National Arts and Disability Center (NADC) is to promote the inclusion of audiences and artists with disabilities into all facets of the arts community. Many of the resources you find on this page are courtesy the NADC.
Universal Design: The 7 Principles of Universal Design were developed in 1997 by a working group of architects, product designers, engineers and environmental design researchers, led by the late Ronald Mace in the North Carolina State University. The purpose of the Principles is to guide the design of environments, products and communications. According to the Center for Universal Design in NCSU, the Principles "may be applied to evaluate existing designs, guide the design process and educate both designers and consumers about the characteristics of more usable products and environments."
Common Terms Regarding Accessibility Used in the Arts
Accessibility: When we modify information, architecture, devices or methods to allow easier access by people with disabilities, we are making those items accessible. Examples include: providing sign language interpreters for a poetry reading; building an accessible ramp for a theatre stage, audio-describing a film; and/or providing technical aids for access to a computer.
Accessible Route: A continuous unobstructed path connecting all accessible elements and spaces of a building or facility. Interior accessible routes may include corridors, floors, ramps, elevators, lifts, and clear floor space at fixtures. Exterior accessible routes may include parking access aisles, curb ramps, crosswalks at vehicular ways, walks, ramps, and lifts.
Alternative Formats: The provision of information that is regularly provided by an organization in visual or audible formats in alternative formats such as computer diskettes, tape recordings, Braille or large print, or captioning.
American Sign Language: American Sign Language (ASL) is the major language used by the American Deaf population. Its medium is visible through hand movements and facial expressions rather than aural. ASL has its own vocabulary, idioms, grammar, and syntax different from English.
Assistive Listening Systems (ALS): Assistive listening systems enhance the sound for people who are hard of hearing to assist them with amplification and clarity. ALS’s enable an individual who benefits from amplification to focus directly on the sound source without having to contend with background noise that can make it difficult to concentrate on conversation. Options to consider include FM systems, infrared or induction loop technologies. The speaker talks into a microphone or transmitter and the listener either uses the T-switch on their hearing aid, or wears a receiver designed to work with the assistive listening device.
Assistive Technology: Devices used by people with disabilities to compensate for functional limitations and to enhance and increase learning, independence, mobility, communication, environmental control and choice. Devices may include voice activated computer software, simple to sophisticated wheelchairs or mobility aids, screen reading computer software that reads out loud information from a computer screen, or a mouth or head stick for painting.
Audio Description: Audio description is a narration of a live theatre event, visual arts exhibit at a museum, television, film or video program’s visual elements for persons with visual disabilities. Audio description is inserted in the natural pauses of a program’s dialogue, and can be used to describe visual elements such as body language, settings, and actions made.
Auxiliary Aids and Services: According to ADA regulations, Auxiliary aids and services include a wide range of services and devices that promote effective communication. These services and devices include:
Information provided by the National Arts and Disability Center.
Braille: Braille is a system of exact translation of printed letters into raised dots, which can be read by fingertips by people who are blind. Braille can be used in exhibition labeling, publications, and signage.
Captioned: A video or film program with subtitles reflecting the content of the spoken or descriptive material.
Closed Captioning: Captions are text superimposed over video for the benefit of viewers who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. Closed captions are hidden (encoded) as a data within the video signal and must be decoded to be visible. Captions are designed to convey on- and off-screen effects, speaker identifications and other information helpful to people who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Open Captioning: Open Captioning places the text on screen in a black reader box at all times.
Real-time Captioning: Roll-up captions that are created and transmitted at time of broadcast origination.
Theatrical Open Captioning: Open captioning of live theatre performances. This technology has enabled many people to experience the joy of theatre for the first time.
Commercial Facilities: According to Title lll regulations of the ADA, a commercial facility is a privately owned nonresidential facility involved in commercial activity, such as a factory, warehouse, corporate office building or other facility in which employment may occur.
Disability: According to the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, or TDD’s, computer terminals, speech synthesizers and communication boards for individuals with speech impairments.
Inclusion: To be given the opportunity to participate in all activities available in a community; for example having the choice to attend an arts performance in your own community. Inclusion isn’t a new program, trend or something one “does” for someone else. It is not a bandwagon. People are either included or excluded. Discussion of inclusion typically addresses issues related to diversity, community building and consequence of exclusion.
Interpreters: People who are deaf or hard of hearing often request interpreters or translators in order to participate in docent tours, lectures, presentations, or events. Interpreters translate from spoken language to American Sign Language (ASL) and visa versa.
International Symbol of Accessibility: Access symbols can be found at the Disability Access Symbols Project Advertisements, conference and program brochures, flyers, press releases, and membership forms, are examples of materials that may display these symbols to advertise the physical access of a facility, program or meeting.
Large Print: Large print brochures and educational materials are for individuals with partial sight. On a personal computer, font size 16 or greater will produce large print.
Major Life Activity: Major life activities include such activities as caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.
Program Accessibility: Under the ADA, Title II standard requires facilities to be readily accessible to and usable by people with disabilities. To become accessible a facility may need to alter an existing facility, acquire or construct additional facilities, or relocate a service or program to an accessible facility.
Public Accommodation: According to Title lll ADA regulations, a place of public accommodation is a private establishment (for profit or nonprofit) that fits one of twelve categories specified by the Department of Justice in ADA regulations. It includes hotels, restaurants, theaters, museums, retail stores, private schools, banks, doctor’s office, and health clubs.
Qualified Individual with a Disability: Under Title I, the employment provision of the ADA, a qualified individual with a disability is a person who meets legitimate skill, experience, education, or other requirements of an employment position that he or she holds or seeks, and can perform the essential functions of the position with or without reasonable accommodation. In a nonemployment context, a qualified person with a disability meets the definition of a person with a disability and meets the essential eligibility requirements for a program, activity, service or benefit offered by a public entity.
Qualified Interpreter: According to ADA Titles II and III, a qualified interpreter is an interpreter who is able to sign to the individual who is deaf what is being said by the hearing person and who can voice the hearing person what is being signed by the individual who is deaf. This communication must be conveyed effectively, accurately, and impartially through the use of any necessary specialized vocabulary.
Readily Achievable: Under Title III of the ADA, places of public accommodation are required to remove from public areas barriers to access. Barrier removal is readily achievable when it is carried out without much difficulty or expense.
Reasonable Accommodation: Reasonable accommodation means making any change or adjustment to a job or work environment that permits a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to apply for a job or to enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment equal to other employees without disabilities. This may include providing readers, sign language interpreters, or modifying the physical environment to make it accessible.
Scripting: Is the provision of a written script of a video, film or a performance as an accommodation for a person who is hard of hearing or deaf.
Sensory Seminars/Tours: Sensory Seminars/Tours are offered at performing arts performances. These pre-performance seminars allow patrons to feel props, set pieces, and costumes in order to give them a better understanding of a character’s body type and personality, the spatial relationship of the set, and the time period of the production.
Service Animal: According to the ADA a service animal is any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability. If they meet this definition, the animals are considered service animals regardless of whether they have been licensed or certified by a state or local government. State and local government offices, as well as privately owned businesses such as museums, galleries, theatres, concert halls, restaurants and retail stores are required to allow people with disabilities to bring their dogs onto the premises in whatever areas other customers/patrons are generally allowed.
Sign Interpreted Performances: Sign Interpreted Performances are theatre performances or readings that are interpreted.
Theatrical Sign Language Interpretation: Theatrical sign language interpretation translates from spoken language to American Sign Language (ASL) utilizing specific techniques for signing plays, and musicals.
Placed Style: The placed style of interpreting in the theatre is by far the most common. It is characterized by the static placement of the interpreter(s) in one location for the duration of the performance.
Shadow Interpreting: Shadow interpreting is when the interpreters actually follow the actors on stage, as their shadow. The shadowed style of interpreting is the most inclusive style of interpreting for the theatre. It involves placing the interpreters directly within the action — nearly making them “sign language actors.” In this style, the interpreters are “blocked” into each scene, and literally shadow the actor.
Touch Tour: A touch tour uses tactile diagrams, audio narrative, interpretive sound compositions, and hands-on art activities to replace traditional art history techniques and make art come alive for people who are blind or visually impaired.
TTY: A TTY traditionally provides a text method of communication over the telephone for individuals who may be deaf or who have speech impairments.
Undue Hardship: Under the employment provisions of the ADA, an employer is not required to provide a reasonable accommodation if it would result in an undue hardship. For the employer, “undue hardship” means it would require significant difficulty or expense, or would alter the nature or operation of the business.
Universal Design: Universal design is the design of products, communications and the built environment to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. The intent of universal design is to simplify life for everyone. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities.
Video Description: Video description makes television accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. Narrated descriptions of a program’s key visual elements — such as actions, body language, graphics and scene changes — are recorded and carefully blended, into natural pauses in the program soundtrack, creating an additional mixed audio track broadcast simultaneously with the program.
Wheelchair and Companion Seating: Seating for wheelchair users adjacent seating for individuals accompanying wheelchair users.
Accessibility Training for Arts Administrators: A collection of prerecorded accessibility training for Art administrators.
From Access to Inclusion – Arts & Disability Ireland: An international summit that focuses on access and Inclusion in arts and culture.
Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability Workshops & Conference (LEAD): The Kennedy Center's Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability (LEAD®) conference brings experienced and new professionals together to explore practical methods for implementing accessibility in cultural environments. At LEAD® we share resources and knowledge, develop best practices, and experience accessibility in action.
Web Accessibility Conference: A Live Captioned Community Web Accessibility Conference. This conference focuses on designing, architecting and building digital assets for those that require A11y standards to get the most out of their web or mobile experience.
Best Practices for Accessibility in Planning Conferences and Meetings: The University of Texas Knoxville’s resource for making conferences and meetings more accessible.
International Association of Accessibility Professionals: The International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP) is a not-for-profit membership-based organization for individuals and organizations that are focused on accessibility or are in the process of building their accessibility skills and strategies.
South Arts stands for access to the arts as a fundamental right. Below are a few of the many organizations and initiatives working to expand inclusion and equity within the arts field. South Arts is currently developing a resource page similar to this one focused on equity to be shared in the coming months.
ArtPlace America: A collaboration among a number of foundations, federal agencies, and financial institutions that was started to support and strengthen a field of creative placemaking.
The National Consortium of Creative Placemaking: A National Consortium who hosts webinars, summits, and trainings surrounding Creative Placemaking.
The Justice Arts Coalition: A national network and resource for those creating art in and around the criminal legal system.
Careers in the Arts: Promoting Access, Equity, and Inclusion for People with Disabilities: A webinar hosted by The National Endowment for the Arts on promoting access, equity, and inclusion for people with disabilities.
Women Of Color in the Arts (WOCA): An organization dedicated to creating racial and cultural equity in the performing arts field, by promoting professional opportunities for arts administrators and providing a platform to give voice and visibility to women of color.
Program & Accessibility Manager
2908 Hennepin Ave., #200
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Program Officer, Performing Arts/Accessibility Coordinator
Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation
201 North Charles Street, #401
Baltimore, MD 21201
410.539.6656 x110 (V)
Operations Manager/Accessibility Coordinator
Mid-America Arts Alliance
2018 Baltimore Avenue
Kansas City, MO 64108
816.421.1388 x216 (V)
Daniela Jacobson Plotkin
New England Foundation for the Arts
145 Tremont Street, 7th floor
Boston, MA 02111
Director Special Projects & Accessibility Coordinator
1800 Peachtree St. NW,
Atlanta, GA 30309
Spanish: 1-800-255-0135 (Voice)
Director of Social Responsibility & Inclusion/Accessibility Coordinator
Western States Arts Federation
1888 Sherman Street, Suite 375
Denver, CO 80203
Deputy Director/Accessibility Coordinator
Alabama State Council on the Arts
201 Monroe Street
Montgomery, AL 36130-1800
Administrative Assistant III/Accessibility Coordinator
Florida Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250
Sarah M. Schmitt
Arts Organization & Access Director
Kentucky Arts Council
21st Floor, Capital Plaza Tower
500 Mero Street
Frankfort, KY 40601-1987
Louisiana Division of the Arts
P.O. Box 44247
1051 North 3rd Street, Room 413
Baton Rouge, LA 70804
Executive Assistant/Accessibility Coordinator
Mississippi Arts Commission
501 North West Street
Woolfolk Building – Suite 1101A
Visual Arts Director & Accessibility Coordinator
North Carolina Arts Council
Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
Raleigh, NC 27699-4632
Spanish Language Relay: 877.825.2448
K-12 Arts Education Coordinator
South Carolina Arts Commission
1026 Sumter Street, Suite 200
Columbia, SC 29201-3746